birminghamox's picture

Blackcap feeding behaviour

While observing the birds in my garden yesterday I was surprised and pleased to see I had a male Blackcap visiting. Although I am not surprised he has taken to visiting gardens due to the extreme cold spell recently I was surprised to see what he was visiting for - he fed on the sliced pear I put down for the blackbirds (one of who chased him off it), but mostly on the digestive biscuits I have hanging up for the Tits and Starlings. I know they are primarily an insect feeding species that is known to occasionally take small fruit, but I was really surprised that he returns so often to the hanging feeder with the biccies in. Has anyone else come across such atypical feeding behaviour in this warbler?



Martin Harvey's picture


We've had a male and female Blackcap in the garden for the last few weeks (it even put in an appearance for the Big Garden Birdwatch!), and they've mostly been going for our home-made 'bird cake' - a mix of fat, seeds, cornflakes etc.

Very smart birds, great to have close-up views of them.

Entomologist and biological recorder

colhig17's picture

Blackcaps in gardens

Increasingly often seen in gardens in the winter. Recent evidence (I can't find the link) suggests these might be a new wave of winter migrants from the continent rather than UK birds overwintering. They can also be quite aggressive around bird tables, though I'm not surprised the blackbird scared it off.


"Wildlife is for Everyone"

bobthebirder's picture

blackcap food

Blackcaps actually have a very wide range of food, even in the summer. When I used to ring them at Portland Bird Observatory it was pretty obvious (from the state of our hands) that blackcaps in autumn lived mainly on blackberries!

Bob Ford

amc627's picture

Blackcap Feeding Behaviour

We have had one visiting our garden in the winter for several years (though not this year). He often fed on our Mahonia flowers, checking in the RSPB book, it confirms they will feed on berries & nectar in the winter so maybe he likes the sugar in the biscuits?

Ann Carter

jonny888's picture

Blackcap feeding

I have blackcaps in my garden every winter. This year is mainly a female and she seems to have a liking for porridge oats, which are part of a mix that I put out for blackbirds and thrushes.

I have also seen the blackcap hanging on the peanut feeder, but cannot see close enough to work out if the bird is eating bits of nut or minute flies that may be there as well.


Kluut's picture


The major driving force for all wild animals is that they must eat whatever will yield the best nett gain of calories - the food must provide more calories than it costs to secure it.
In some cases that can be borderline.
Certainly true thrushes and starlings - turdinae and sturnidae - lack amylase, so cannot digest complex carbohydrates to any degree. They have evolved to eat very largely invertebrates, and they are protein and fat, no carbohydrates. In the case of fruits, they can digest the (mostly) tiny quantities of fat and protein in them, and the fructose and glucose, but very little if any of the sucrose. (Exceptions to the low protein/fat of fruits and berries include things like sea buckthorn and juniper).

I have never seen any research on warbler digestion, but they are closely related to true thrushes, so may have digestive limitations too.

Any cereal-based food is very poor fare for thrushes and starlings. Survival of thrushes on a fruit diet is only short-term, especially in cold wweather.